Sources in History is a new series responding to the continued shift of emphasis in the teaching of history in schools and universities towards the use of primary sources and the testing of historical skills. By using documentary evidence, the series is intended to reflect the skills historians have to master when challenged by problems of evidence, interpretation and presentation. A distinctive feature of Sources in History is the manner in which the content, style and significance of documents is analysed. The commentary and the source are not discrete, but rather merge to become part of a continuous and integrated narrative. After reading each volume a student should be well versed in the historiographical problems which sources present. In short, the series provides texts which will allow students to achieve facility in ‘thinking historically’ and place them in a stronger position to test their historical skills. Wherever possible the intention has been to retain the integrity of a document and not simply to present a ‘gobbet’, which can be misleading. Documentary evidence thus forces the students to confront a series of questions which professional historians also have to grapple with. Such questions can be summarised as follows:
1 What type of source is the document?
• Is it a written source or an oral or visual source?
• What is its importance?
• Did it have an effect on events or the decision-making process?
2 Who wrote the document?
• A person, a group or a government?
• If it was a person, what was his/her position?
• What basic attitudes might have affected the nature of the information and language used?
3 When was the document written?
• The date, and even the time, might be significant.
• It may be necessary to understand when the document was written in order to understand its context.
• Are there any special problems in understanding the document as contemporaries would have understood it?